Why you should go
You don't have to be a huge Harry Potter fan to appreciate the genius of the magnificently whimsical Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which invites muggles to lose themselves in JK Rowling's imagination. First opened in 2010 and expanded in 2014, this is theme park development at its absolute best. Not since Cinderella Castle has there been such a fantastically realized experience, and today its only rival for imaginative scale and attention to detail is the recently opened Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Alan Gilmore and Stuart Craig, art director and production designer for the films, collaborated closely with the Universal Orlando Resort engineers to create what is without exception the most fantastically realized themed experience in Florida. The detail and authenticity tickle the fancy at every turn, from the screeches of the mandrakes in the shop windows to the groans of Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom.
Poke along the cobbled streets and impossibly crooked buildings of Hogsmeade, sip frothy Butterbeer, munch on Cauldron Cakes and mail a card via Owl Post, all in the shadow of Hogwarts Castle, and keep your eyes peeled for magical happenings. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is divided into two sections, each with rides and shows: Hogsmeade sits in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley, completed in 2014, is in Universal Studios. If you have a park-to-park ticket, hop on the Hogwarts Express from one section to the other. New to Hogsmeade is Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, where visitors buckle in and 'fly' through the Forbidden Forest.
One hour early admission is available for guests at Universal Orlando Resort hotels.
Tips for visiting Harry Potter's Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley
Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter is no place for the faint-hearted during high season. The lines for almost everything can risk breaking even the most indomitable spirit, but don't be deterred: with a little bit of smart planning, a visit to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley can be magnificently joyful, easy and stress-free.
Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel Harry Potter attractions open one hour early for guests at four on-site hotels. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the gates open to the general public, and do not dawdle.
Strategize Head to Islands of Adventure's Hogsmeade on one morning. Hit Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Flight of the Hippogriff, and finally shops and restaurants (in that order). The other morning, zip straight to Universal Studio's Diagon Alley, hop on Escape from Gringotts, and then explore at leisure. There is an Ollivander's Wand Shop in both parks – on one of the two days, make this your first stop.
Buy a park-to-park ticket This allows you to ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Visit during low season Do not go Christmas through early January, March and summer.
Take advantage of Universal's "return time" tickets If the Wizarding World of Harry Potter does reach capacity during your visit (usually after 10:30am), it only allows new guests to enter once others have left. This electronic ticket allows you to enjoy other attractions and return for entry into the Wizarding World within a specific window of time. Look for the blue banner directing you to the easy-to-use kiosks.